Spring Football Report Card

By Kyle Rowland on April 14, 2014 at 3:00p

Kirk Irwin Photography

47 Comments

QUARTERBACKS

  • Braxton Miller’s absence took some pizzazz out of the spring. But the competition between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett was more exciting than most backup quarterback derbies. With Miller’s injury history and senior season looming, the winner was going to carry a valuable position. But the ending was awfully anticlimactic.
  • Jones won the competition on a day when even head coach Urban Meyer admitted he would have liked to have been elsewhere at times. Both quarterbacks hovered around a 50 percent completion rate, throwing for around 150 yards with zero touchdowns. Not exactly what fans are used to when the backup emerges.
  • A Kenny Guiton-esque No. 2 might not be a necessity for every team in the country, but when you’re starter has been injured going back to high school, the backup takes on a heightened role. Before the spring, Barrett gave off the vibe that he could assume the responsibility. He’s a natural leader and plays the style both Meyer and Tom Herman covet.
  • But when the spotlight engulfed Barrett, it was the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Jones who pulled away with what he called “the most important position on the team.” Accuracy is a concern going into the summer, but Jones has all the tools to be a competent quarterback. Herman and Kenny Guiton were each a major factor in Jones’s recovery from poor judgment and a suspect work ethic earlier in his career. It remains to be seen whether Herman can sprinkle some of his Guiton fairy dust on Jones.  

Grade: B

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Ohio State has two sure-fire starters on the offensive line. That’s not good. After two years of stability and constant production, four of five starters are gone. In place are Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein, with Antonio Underwood, Jacoby Boren and Darryl Baldwin the frontrunners to secure the remaining three spots.
  • Saturday’s woeful performance didn’t do much in the way of building confidence. The Scarlet and Gray teams combined for five sacks, including one that resulted in a fumble and defensive touchdown. The rushing game was nowhere near last year’s historic per game numbers. And that was with the entire starting defensive line sitting out.   
  • Underwood said it best when he noted Ohio State is an offensive line-driven team. The Buckeyes have been that for decades, even under Meyer. If three functional starters aren’t identified, national championship hopes could quickly diminish. Ohio State’s saving grace is respected line coach Ed Warinner, who’s already turned undervalued talent into NFL draft picks.

Grade: C

RUNNING BACKS

  • There probably isn’t a Carlos Hyde on the roster, at least not for the 2014 season. Hyde’s numbers a year ago aren’t stats that appear on a yearly basis. Still, the Buckeyes have talent and depth at running back. It could be the deepest position on the team.
  • Ezekiel Elliott is a capable starter who proved during an abbreviated freshman season that he can be the top tailback at Ohio State. He averaged nearly nine yards per carry last season and also got involved in the passing game. So far, he’s exceed any expectations levied on him after a standout high school career.
  • Bri’onte Dunn, Rod Smith, Warren Ball and Curtis Samuel are next in line. Dunn and ball were sort of forgotten men who reminded onlookers of their existence. They both performed well throughout the spring and used the spring game as a jumping off point for the regular season. Dunn rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown, while Ball had a game-high 55 yards and a touchdown.
  • Freshman sensation Curtis Samuel was a popular name, as Meyer mentioned him on multiple occasions. His quick acceleration and versatility were seen in the spring game, when he totaled 35 yards – 18 rushing, 17 receiving.
  • Smith’s absence is presumed to be academic related, though Meyer said there are no eligibility concerns. The senior had his own highlights during the spring and figures to be in the rotation come August.

Grade: B

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

  • Similar to the running backs, wide receiver is another area where a go-to guy might not exist, but the depth is extraordinary. Devin Smith, Dontre Wilson, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith, Evan Spencer, Johnnie Dixon, James Clark, Jalin Marshall and Jeff Greene form a nine-man group who should see game action.
  • Thomas and Corey Smith were the two attention getters on Saturday. Thomas had six catches for 64 yards and Smith recorded five catches for a game-high 72 yards. Throwing the football could become a bigger part of the game plan with a veteran quarterback and inexperienced offensive line.
  • Nick Vannett and Marcus Baugh took a bulk of the snaps due to Jeff Heuerman’s foot injury. Meyer and Tim Hinton already knew Vannett could block and catch. It was Baugh’s progression that offered the most promise. After months in the doghouse, he’s working his way back into good graces.  
  • Ohio State contains a mixture of speedsters, sure-handed pass-catches and possession receivers. The issue with the spring was no Braxton Miller. It puts a premium on summer months when the receivers and Miller get together to develop cohesion.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • The best unit on the team? That’s the popular line of thinking. Joey Bosa, Michael Bennett, Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence make up one of the top defensive line in America. None of them played Saturday, and there was no need.
  • The fourteen previous practices already exhibited the D-line’s might. Larry Johnson has slid in seamlessly, earning acclaim and respect from his players and fellow coaches. The product on the field backs up their thinking.
  • Depth is the biggest change on the post-Mike Vrabel line. The Buckeyes weren’t empty-handed last season, Vrabel just chose to use the four best players almost exclusively. Johnson wants to secure an eight- or nine-man rotation.
  • When Rashad Frazier and Tyquan Lewis harassed quarterbacks and offensive linemen, it almost acted as the birth of a deep rotation. Tommy Schutt, Michael Hill, Donovan Munger, Steve Miller, Tracy Sprinkle and Chris Carter also are part of that group.
  • With offenses not afraid to push the tempo to 80 and 90 plays per game, a fresh defensive line is invaluable. If Johnson and the Buckeyes can build a mountain of productivity with an adequate two-man rotation, Ohio State could have a monumental advantage on opponents, especially in the fourth quarter.

Grade: A

LINEBACKERS

  • No position has been under more scrutiny in the Meyer era than linebacker. It’s possible those days could be subsiding. Two weeks ago, Meyer admitted the unit is in the process of turning the corner after years of uneven play. But after the spring game, only one starter was named: Joshua Perry.
  • That leaves Curtis Grant, Raekwon McMillan, Darron Lee and Chris Worley in a battle for the other spots. Meyer said Grant had one of his better springs, and Lee was a constant target for praise in March and April, giving the impression that both will be hard to beat when fall camp arrives.
  • What’s known is McMillan is not just an overhyped recruit. He had five tackles in the spring game, with Meyer leaving no doubt that he will play as a true freshman. Worley is the wild card. He went under the radar all spring before perhaps the best performance of the spring game on either side of the ball. He recorded a game-high nine tackles and one tackle for loss.
  • Just another bright spot for a linebacking corps doing all it can to leave the head coach satisfied.

Grade: B

SECONDARY

  • When you allow the video-game numbers Ohio State’s secondary gave up the final three games, there really is only one way to go. Chris Ash and Kerry Coombs’s collaborated press coverage corrected a chunk of the problem. If anything, it changed the mood and removed a cloud hanging over the bruised unit.
  • The passing numbers weren’t great in the spring game, with less than 300 yards and 10 pass breakups. There’s little mystery to cornerback Doran Grant. The senior turned in a solid junior season, but who starts on the other side? It looks like Armani Reeves, who turned in a superb spring. But so too did Gareon Conely and Eli Apple, problems coaches have welcomed. The Buckeyes will need all three to play in the fall.
  • Safeties Vonn Bell, Tyvis Powell and Cam Burrows might lack experience but make up for it with talent and natural instincts.

Grade: B

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Cameron Johnston enjoys the same status as Braxton Miller: virtually no chance of losing his starting position. The sophomore punter turned heads in Year 1 and figures to be among the top punters in the country again in 2014. He booted six punts for 269 yards and a 44.8-yard average in the spring game. Three were downed inside the 20, including one at the 1-yard line.
  • Place-kicking duties were up in the air. But it looked like true freshman Sean Nuernberger separated himself from senior walk-on Kyle Clinton after having the more accurate (and stronger) leg on Saturday. Nuernberger belted a 52-yarder into the wind that may have been good from 60.

Grade: B

47 Comments

Comments

steveoz49's picture

Jones won the day?  I must be blind or maybe I was watching a different spring game.  I thought JT looked more explosive with his runs.  I thought that JT slightly was the better passer.  I think I need to go back and watch this game again, clearly I missed something.

+18 HS
Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I thought the exact same thing.  

+3 HS
German Buckeye's picture

Totally concur.  Don't see at all where Jones played better.  I must have been watching a different game because JT looked way more confident and actually moved the chains. 

+3 HS
Kyle Rowland's picture

The competition was based on the entire spring, not just the spring game. 

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

Cardale might have won the whole spring, but when the pressure was on during the Spring Game JT looked a lot more impressive to me.  I know it's not even close to a good comparison, but I'm a middle school hoops coach and last season we had a player who was an awful practice player.  When the lights came on and it was game day, he usually led the team.  JT looked much better than Cardale IMO. 

Kindell's picture

I was a little more impressed with JT as well.  This might be because I expected a lot more out of Jones after hearing about him throughout spring practices.  JT is still a couple years younger and coming off a major injury as well.  I think Barrett has plenty of times to catch up to Jones and possibly pass him.

+3 HS
whobdis's picture

Hard to pinpoint a winner between the two..I prefer JT so maybe it was my wishfull thinking but I thought he looked a tad better. I really liked his run..much more elusive than Jones. He made his reads..inaccurate at times. Probably should have had a TD with Vannett. Jones is a big dude. Reminds me of Dante Culpepper. He rockets the ball though on every throw. Maybe JT had some really bad reads that most of us wouldn't notice but I put him a notch above as well.

+1 HS
Wesleyburgess1's picture

Not really. I watched the game again and I think Cardale had way more bad reads than JT. Cardale missed a couple really easy ones that he should have gotten. Based on this game i would compare Jt to Kenny as far as the mental side of things. CJ seemed to have allot of potential but seemed a bit slow minded. Just my take on it

+1 HS
Will in Arizona's picture

I thought Cardale was much more accurate as a passer - some of JT's passes were just waaay of the mark.  Neither guy is a great passer.

 

It's hard to gauge the running because of the rules.  JT is the more elusive and fits better in the "no contact" type game, whereas Cardale would seem to be the one more likely to break a tackle.

 

This team needs Braxton Miller to stay healthy - I would not have faith in either QB to lead this team to a B1G Championship, although I do have to agree that Cardale looked better to me of the two.

+1 HS
Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I might be in the minority, but I'm still not sold on Cardale.  If he can't get his accuracy right, that turns us into a complete running team once Braxton is gone.  Maybe I'm looking at things the wrong way, but I want a more balanced offense in the future.  We have relied too much on the run since Urban got to Columbus.  I know our skill players haven't been spectacular, but it starts with the QB making reads and progressions.  

+1 HS
MikeEagleBuckeye's picture

I thought the same thing too.  At least to me, I thought JT was more impressive on Saturday.

+1 HS
Oakland Buckeye's picture

I'm gonna make it 9-1 in posters who agree JT was much better - more fluid, much better looking ball - the biggest thing I noticed is Cardales slow to read & ball security where both bad. Even Urbz said Jones as bad on Saturday. I was at the game too & Jones looked lost most of the time.

MikeEagleBuckeye's picture

I was really impressed by Nuernberger's leg on Saturday.  Like you said, I think he may now be the favorite to land the starting job this fall.

+1 HS
Kindell's picture

I agree on Nuernberger as well.  I was really impressed with how he drove the ball on such a windy day, and you could tell a big difference between the two kickers balls when they were in the air.

OSU_1992_UFM's picture

Balls...LOL

UFM_Renewal

-2 HS
sb97's picture

The OL certainly looked pretty poor but I have faith that once we get a starting 5 identified they will start improving quickly.  For now, they are just a bunch of disparate parts but as the rotation becomes solidified they will gel and be able to clear up some of the mistakes.  Even so, I was still worried about guys like Dodson being beaten off the edge

MaliBuckeye's picture

But what about that all-important long snapper battle?  Will we still be a "snaps by committee" team?

"Sarcastically, I'm in charge."

tBBC

+2 HS
I_Run_The_Dave's picture

I'm more concerned about the starting holder.  I mean, Kenny G. had that locked down last two years...

+3 HS
d5k's picture

Anyone who is worried about the backup quarterback keep in mind that we run a power-run, hurry up spread offense first and foremost.  Jones and Barrett will be able to keep the chains moving along with our backs + Dontre without even throwing the ball more than 2 yards past the line of scrimmage.  Jones will be a load to bring down in the open field.  

+5 HS
Kyle Rowland's picture

The efficiency of the run game is all based on the offensive line. It might be adequate, but it will be nowhere near the past two seasons. If Braxton got hurt, OSU would be in serious trouble. Think otherwise and you've got some incredible scarlet glasses. There's no Kenny Guiton on this team. 

okiebuck's picture

The two "sure fire starters" didn't even play; so that right there is a positive, plus there are a couple of big hosses on the way come June 21st. No doubt it will be an important summer but I think by the time they break camp in the fall, the O-Line Whisperer, Ed Warinar will have a unit ready to go to battle with. Will they be as good as the last two years, not right out of the gate, but they will get there.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

Run_Fido_Run's picture

The OL isn't playing a game in May, are they? I think Warinner will have them in pretty solid shape come fall. The problem would be if one of the backup QBs has to play against a stellar defense, but otherwise I agree with D5K: Cardale, EZE/Dunn/Ball/Smith, and Dontre running out of the read option would give mid-level defenses all they can handle. 

BGSUBucksFan's picture

I think these are fair assessments overall.  I realize these are just spring grades, but if/when Braxton goes down, do they really have a "B" quarterback?  So far, I'm not convinced.  I think the bigger concern, though, is the O line.  In Warriner I trust.

steveoz49's picture

I'm not overly concerned with the OL.  Having the teams split up like they did, there's no fair way to grade them out as a whole.  I think had they put their "1's" out there, there would've been more positive reviews.  I'm thinking that come game 1, the OL will be just fine.

+1 HS
Breakawayspeed's picture

Good try but exactly how do you grade a "game" like this?  Both sides of the ball didn't do all that much.  Urban said they will be able work with the players for 2 hours a day during the summer under new rules.  I think they are going to need it to refine team skills.  I was impressed with the overall team speed, however.  Curtis Samuel looks like he has the whole package.  The defense was "aggressive" at the very least,... thank God!

vitaminB's picture

I don't see how you grade the QBs above a C-.  Nothing completed downfield.  Jones threw a completion for - 20 yards.  That's hard to do.  The best play of the day was a three yard one handed catch by Thomas.  Not impressed with either QB.  Too bad Collier didn't get more than two plays.

+4 HS
Zimmy07's picture

I couldn't believe that A) Jones actually threw that ball at someone and not over their head out of bounds, and B) that the receiver didn't intentionally drop it.  He had to have known that he wasn't likely to make up the 20 yards after catching it just to get back to the line of scrimmage.

IGotAWoody's picture

Because you don't grade it the way you grade a game in the fall, you grade it as a spring game, knowing that neither QB had a cohesive line to play behind, or a full compliment of offensive weapons around them.

 - License to kill gophers (wolverines, badgers, etc) by the government of the United Nations

+1 HS
Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

As for the OL, neither Decker nor Elfein played. That means you had new players at every position for a unit that requires synchronicity. So I'm less concerned that they struggled. Add in Warriner's track record and the fact that the group did seen to settle down after a shaky start, and I'm OK with what we saw.

+2 HS
OSU_1992_UFM's picture

I don't think you can really get a good idea on Jones based on the game. The O-line is obviously still a work in progress, but I was not impressed with his accuracy or decision making (ie trying to pull a Manziel instead of just eating a safety) JT looked better on the read option

UFM_Renewal

otrain2416's picture

I honestly wasn't impressed with either backup and hope both guys work on their accuracy issues. This year I think were gonna see less offense and more defense. Last year we averaged 46 points/ game. I see that number probably in the high 30s/low 40s this year with the loss of Hyde, C. Brown, & most importantly 4/5 O Lineman. We also have a much tougher schedule this year IMO. Last year our defense gave up 377 yards/ game and 23 points/ game. With the new aggressive defensive scheme and a lot of veterans coming back we'll see our defensive numbers probably come down to (hopefully) <20 points/ game and in the low 300s in yards/game.

allinosu's picture

Did anyone else notice that just about every punt could have been blocked? Cameron needs to speed things up.

BiElEmAsDoUbLeChIn's picture

It's basically a glorified practice! And how many got blocked of his last season? No worries!

Kingbuck12's picture

I thought mitchell was all over the place. Dont really know who he is but he did a nice job. Reminds me of Dane Last name i cant spell. 

Kingbuck12

OSU_1992_UFM's picture

Sazenbacher

UFM_Renewal

NCBuckeye2011's picture

When Rashad Frazier and Tyquan Lewis harassed quarterbacks and offensive linemen, it almost acted as the birth of a deep rotation. Tommy Schutt, Michael Hill, Donovan Munger, Steve Miller, Tracy Sprinkle and Chris Carter also are part of that group.

 I'm not sure if this has been addressed elsewhere, but what the heck has happened to Jamal Marcus?  He had a solid year spelling Spence, seems like he plays with a high motor. Has he somehow found his way into Urban's doghouse?

Ginger_buckeye's picture

I thought the same thing. I also haven't heard anything on tre johnson either

We don't give a d*** for the whole state of M*******

OSU_1992_UFM's picture

I believe Jamal Marcus and Rod Smith are having some academic issues

UFM_Renewal

tussey's picture

I guess I was a little underwhelmed by our receivers in the spring game.  After hearing all this hype about the receivers going up and making plays, I wanted to see it and I didn't.  It seemed like there weren't any contested catches.  The secondary recorded 10 PBUs.  Is my concern warranted or am I putting too much stock into what I saw during the spring game? (I admit I only was able to watch the first half, so if it happened in the second half, my apologies)

avail31678's picture

I hear ya - I am really hoping our receivers are great this year and our passing game takes off.  BUT, my impression of the game was that the QB's weren't exactly throwing darts out there.  Accuracy was a bit of a problem.

 

I am honestly more encouraged by how well our DB's did.  I mean, coverage was pretty tight for the most part.  I figure our passing game HAS to be as good or better this year, right?  Same QB, deeper receiving corps...  But our pass defense HAS to improve a good amount, and I think we're on the way.

B1G 10 Buckeye Stuck in SEC Country's picture

After all the articles about TEs I was expecting some explosive plays from the TE position...

" Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid." - John Wayne 

+1 HS
avail31678's picture

Who is the starting place holder going to be?!!

+1 HS
B1G 10 Buckeye Stuck in SEC Country's picture

I don't know but maybe we can get 10 stories written about it after it's been reported on Bleacher Report.

" Life is hard; it's harder if you're stupid." - John Wayne 

+1 HS
BiElEmAsDoUbLeChIn's picture

Hey..if your tired of reading articles on the te position! There is an amazing article on Miley Cyrus! :/

Jpfbuck's picture

as far as the QBs go, I would agree that neither was great, and both had some accuracy issues.

but then again our starter has accuracy issues of his own at times (completing only 38% against MSU, 40% against UM, 45% against Illinois, as examples

given that the D knew they would run much, and that they were going to throw the ball 60+% of the time, the scales were tipped a bit against them

granted I don't have confidence in them yet that they can lead us to a victory, I think they are still both ahead of someone like Joe Bauserman in 2011, so it is not quite all doom and gloom

MattyBeingMatty's picture

I don't know if I am missing something or what but you have no mention of Jamal Marcus when talking about the DL.  That kid performed so well when he got his chance last year and left a lot of people wondering why he didn't rotate in more often.  With Spence missing the first couple of games I think we will see him with the first line and push to get a lot of snaps for the season.

“Not everybody’s the perfect person in the world, I mean everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever. I think that people need a second chance, and I’ve always looked up to Mike Vick." -TP

BiElEmAsDoUbLeChIn's picture

Someone who impressed me was tyquan lewis! Dude was explosive and quick! Look out for this dude! UNDERATED!